I have low expectations for Spring Series races. I always anticipate them to be under-marshalled, over-registered and under-punctual. And I acknowledge that there are many unforeseen things that happen in races (crashes, obstinate park users who refuse to listen to marshals, Benjamin Netanyahu going for a jog), but Spring Series races seem to have an abundance of unforeseen occurrences occurring in them. Due to the regularity of these calamities, I’m forced to conclude that these extra occurrences aren’t due solely to bad luck, there has to be some culpability on the part of those who put on the races.
Let’s use Sunday’s race for example. Normally I try to steer clear of being the typical bitchy bike racer, as that’s a tiresome stereotype that I do not wish to propagate, but in this case I will put on my bitchy jeans (they have a special sand-blasted finish). First on my "bitch list" is the fact that pre-reg for the race was $27, while the price for day of registration was $35, which is nearly a 30% surcharge. Of course, I should be more diligent in my race planning, but I do have a hectic schedule and my race decisions often come at the last moment. This lack of planning evidently costs me $8—is it worth $8? On Sunday morning, I decided it was.
After a slightly DMV-ish sign in process (I don’t blame promoters for last minute whiney racer registration nonsense—I DO however, blame promoters for leaving registration open in order to collect every registration possible. You should set a firm time for registration to end, and that means letting some registration fees uncollected—it’s the only way some tardy racers will ever learn. I know it’s hard to face begging racers, but it’s called tough love for a reason), I pinned up and made my way to the start to stand and shiver with my fellow racers for a reasonable ( for the Spring Series) extra 10 or so minutes past the official start time.
Before starting the race, we were bull-hornily briefed by the race promoter. He helpfully mentioned the location of potholes on the course and advised us in the pro1/2/3 race to keep a brisk pace, lest we get caught by the trailing throng of 3/4 racers which he reckoned was 150 racers strong. As an aside, that’s a lot of racers in one field. For comparison, that’s akin to inviting the entire crowd at the Bad Brains concert (I am the master of the timely reference) over to your dorm room after the show. There’s a slight chance everyone will be cool and play Twister, but chances are that your mini-fridge is going to get trashed.
We shoved off and started racing our $7 (un-preregistered price) laps. And the action was representative of early season New York City racing. Lots of attacking without any meaningful gaps, and a brisk pace. After $25.65 worth of racing, we came upon those racers unlucky enough to be involved in the dorm party catastrophe. There were three or four racers on the ground and two ambulances attending to the injured. We all slowed because—duh—and gingerly picked our way through the wreckage. We rode past the start finish to hear the bell ringing to signify the last lap of the race. We had slowed at this point and were left to wonder whether the race was still in fact a race at this point.
This questioning lasted for about $2.50. The we started racing again. We raced on the West Side and through Tavern, and when we got to the downhill where the crash happened we stopped racing—because there were marshals waving at us and because—see aforementioned "duh" statement from above. We rolled slowly past the ambulances and stopped at the finish.
Now, no promoter can control the action of racers once they’ve started racing. A promoter can yell at racers from the side of the road or have a moto try to control the racers, but no promoter can forbid a pack of racers from acting stupidly nor can they prohibit crashing. Mishaps happen. This is racing. But there are things promoters can do to minimize these mishaps occurring. And not packing race fields like a freshman formulating an after-party is a good place to start, otherwise you can kiss your mini-fridge goodbye.